The Urban-Rural Biomonitoring & Assessment Network. A citizen-science project in Hamilton, Ontario.

Wetland Plants

Macrophytes (wetland plants) provide many ecosystem services including climate regulation, nutrient cycling, water storage, and habitat for fish, invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds. Macrophytes provide the physical structure of the wetland and release oxygen into the water and sediments through their leaves and stems to be used by other organisms (Croft 2007). Macrophytes are also important in removing contaminants from the water, preventing floods by taking up large amounts of water, and stabilizing our shorelines by holding sediments in place. Macrophytes are an extremely diverse group of plants and different species exist in wetlands of variable water quality conditions (amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, turbidity). Due to this factor, macrophytes are excellent predictors of water quality because any change in water quality will be should be reflected in the plant community composition of the wetland (Croft and Chow-Fraser 2007). For example, common bladderwort (Utricularia vulgaris) is an indicator of good water quality, and Eurasian water milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) is an indicator of poor water quality.

What can you do to help?

Get involved as an URBAN volunteer with the Volunteer Aquatic Plant Survey (VAPS). This program was piloted in Georgian Bay in 2006-2007 with great success, and we’ve decided to implement it in the Hamilton Region. Since wetland plants are sensitive to changes in water quality, it is important to limit excess inputs of phosphorus and nitrogen. Get involved in local issues such as sewage treatment plant upgrades and related infrastructure issues related to water output into natural systems.


Marsh plant surveys require arranging your own travel to a wetland assigned by the Coordinator, but we will try to make them convenient for the participant. Monitoring marsh plants requires attending the annual spring workshop for training. Each survey should take no more than an hour or two. Each survey location should be visited once per year between July 15 and August 15. These surveys involve canoeing or wading through the wetland using chest waders or rubber boots to survey the different plant communities (submergent, floating, and emergent vegetation).

Aquatic plants can be grouped in the following categories. Please select the category to view plants of that type.

  • Emergents: leaves primarily emergent from the water
  • Floating: leaves primarily floating on water
  • Submergents: leaves primarily submerged under the water

Emergent Plants

Utricularia cornuta (Horned bladderwort)

Typha angustifolia (Narrow-leaf cattail)

Typha xglauca (Hybrid cattail)

Typha latifolia (Common cattail)

Sparganium eurycarpum (Giant burreed)

Schoenoplectus validus (Softstem bulrush)

Scirpus subterminalis (Water bulrush)

Schoenoplectus americana (3-square bulrush)

Schoenoplectus acutus (Hardstem bulrush)

Sagittaria cuneata (Northern/small arrowhead)

Sagittaria latifolia (Common arrowhead)

Pontederia cordata (Pickerel Weed)

Eleocharis acicularis (Needle spikerush)

Floating Plants

Wolffia spp. (Watermeal spp.)

Spirodela polyrrhiza (Greater duckweed)

Sparganium fluctans (Floating burreed)

Potamogeton natans (Broad-leaved pondweed)

Polygonum amphibium (Water smartweed)

Pistia stratiotes (Water lettuce)

Nymphoides cordata (Little floating heart)

Nymphaea odorata (Fragrant water lily (white))

Nuphar variegata (Common yellow pond lily)

Lemna trisulca (Ivy duckweed)

Lemna minor (Lesser duckweed)

*Hydrocharis morsus-ranae (European frogbit)

Eichhornia crassipes (Water hyacinth)

Brasenia schreberi (Water shield)

Submergent Plants

Vallisneria americana (Tape grass/ eel grass/ water celery)

Utricularia vulgaris (Common bladderwort)

Stuckenia pectinatus (Sago pondweed)

Sagittaria graminea (Grassy arrowhead)

Scirpus subterminalis (Water bulrush)

Potamogeton zosteriformis (Flat-stemmed pondweed)

Potamogeton vaseyi (Vasey’s pondweed)

Potamogeton robbinsii (Fern-leaf pondweed)

Potamogeton richardsonii (Clasping-leaved pondweed)

Potamogeton spirillus (Northern snailseed pondweed)

Potamogeton pusillus (Slender pondweed)

Potamogeton obtusifolius (Bluntleaf pondweed)

Potamogeton gramineus (Variable pondweed)

Potamogeton epihydrus (Ribbon-leaf pondweed)

Potamogeton crispus (Curly-leaf pondweed)

Potamogeton amplifolius (Large-leaved pondweed)

Nitella spp. (Stonewort)

Najas flexilis (Slender water nymph)

Myriophyllum spicatum (Eurasian water milfoil)

Myriophyllum sibiricum (Common water milfoil)

Lobelia dortmanna (Water lobelia)

Freshwater sponges

Eriocaulon aquaticum (Pipewort)

Elodea canadensis (Common Canadian waterweed)

Isoetes spp. (Quillwort)

Chara spp. (Muskgrass)

Ceratophyllum demersum (Coontail)

Bidens beckii (Beck’s marsh marigold)

URBAN is a citizen science monitoring program for the City of Hamilton, enabling you to experience and contribute to the preservation of wildlife and natural areas within and around the city.